One of the most objective measurements of how a company or government entity is performing is analyzing how actual expenditures compare with its budget.
The budget is the roadmap for the city’s fiscal year – proposed by Mayor Ashton Hayward and approved by the Pensacola City Council. Citizens should be able to review the monthly financial reports and see how well each department is performing.
Mayor Hayward can move funds around inside the General Fund. If he needs more money for Pensacola Fire Department overtime, he can take the funds out of another department without council approval.
If a department needs more money for office supplies, the funds can be moved from another account in that department, such as repairs. However, he should not be allowed to change the budgets without council approval.
The Monthly Line-item Statement for June shows the city budget has increased the budgets for all but seven departments. If revenues are up, then they would be fine, if the council approved the budget amendments.
Unfortunately, the City does not publish monthly revenue reports so that is difficult to prove. It also doesn’t provide footnotes when the budget amendments were approved.
When Inweekly compared the May and June budgets shown in the financial reports for individual departments, we found that the budgets for individual items were being changed to make it appear the departments were within budget in areas such as overtime and professional services.
The council did not approve these month-to-month adjustments, and CFO Dick Barker did not mention the changes in his recent presentation to the council.
Here is the Operating Budget for Barker’s Financial Services. See how the budget fluctuates for Repairs & Maintenance, Postage, Printing & Binding, and Professional Services.
The Proposed 2017 Budget shows a 6.5 percent increase in spending over the June budget and 14.3 percent increase of the budget the council approved in September 2015, but doesn’t correctly reflect the budget fluctuations over the current year.
If the Hayward Administration can continuously rewrite the budgets every month, how can a city council member or citizen know how well the departments are performing, identify problem areas, or see if the following year’s budget is correct?
Problems like legal fees, professional services and overtime can be hidden from the public.
The month-to-month manipulations of the department budgets may explain why it took over a month for the Finance Department to post the June Monthly Line-item Statement.